OJJDP News @ a Glance - July/August 2015
July | August 2015

Coordinating Council Discusses Improving Outcomes for Youth Kept Closer to Home

Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice  and Delinquency Prevention sealOn June 22, 2015, the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention convened at the Department of Justice to discuss the results of a groundbreaking OJJDP-sponsored study, Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reform. The study drew on 1.3 million individual case records maintained by three state agencies in Texas to assess the impact of state policy measures introduced between 2007 and 2012 in reducing the use of state-run correctional facilities for delinquent youth and keeping troubled youth closer to home.

Attorney General Lynch speaks to members of the Coordinating Council.
Attorney General Lynch speaks to members of the Coordinating Council.

Present at the meeting were Attorney General and council chair Loretta E. Lynch; OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee, Vice Chair; Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant to the President, White House Domestic Policy Council; and council members and designees from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, Defense, the Interior, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Also in attendance were participants from the Corporation for National and Community Service and council practitioner members from across the nation.

In her first address to the council, Attorney General Lynch said, “For nearly four decades, this council has done some truly extraordinary work and made some outstanding progress on behalf of our nation’s youth.” Ms. Lynch also vowed to give her full support to the council during her tenure as the Attorney General.

Michael D. Thompson, director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center and one of the principal investigators on the study, presented the study findings. He was joined on the panel by Susan Burke, director of Juvenile Justice Services, Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice, Utah; John Tilley, Kentucky House of Representatives; and Randy Turner, director, Tarrant County (TX) Juvenile Services.

Although the number of youth in secure confinement had been in decline prior to 2007 when the first of the measures were taken, Thompson reported that only after 2007 did Texas see significant drops in the numbers of confined youth, decreases which he attributed to the legislative reforms.

Closer to Home cover

Even though the reforms were successful in keeping youth closer to home, the study showed that they had little to no impact on disproportionate minority contact and rearrest rates. The racial composition of youth in confinement did not change despite decreases in overall numbers, and there was little variation in rearrest rates for youth on probation and youth released from state-run secure facilities.

Some of the difficulty in assuring expected outcomes for youth, the panelists noted, could be attributed to how the community services were provided. Many did not match risk to need, and did not target the population most in need of their services—moderate- and high-risk youth. The panelists suggested strategies for improving youth outcomes, including restructuring contracts to hold providers accountable for outcomes attained and not only for services rendered, helping states make better use of risk and needs assessment tools to match the right kids to the right programs, and improving states’ capacity to acquire and analyze data that measures the impact of their reform efforts.

Improving outcomes for system-involved youth will require a paradigm shift in the way the juvenile justice system operates, concluded the panelists. “We’re trying to make change in an organizational structure that is so focused on this correctional mindset and not a youth developmental approach,” said Burke. “Everyone wants what’s best for kids, but [they] don’t necessarily know how to make that cultural shift, and it’s a slow process.”

The Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is an independent body within the executive branch of the federal government operated under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The council's primary functions are to coordinate federal juvenile delinquency prevention programs, federal programs and activities that detain or care for unaccompanied juveniles, and federal programs relating to missing and exploited children. The council is made up of 22 members—13 ex officio and affiliate members and 9 practitioners. The ex officio members are: the Attorney General; the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development, and Labor; the Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Affiliate members are the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and the Interior, and the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of HHS. The nine juvenile justice practitioner members are appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate Majority Leader, and the President of the United States.

Resources:

Watch a webcast of the meeting.

Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reform can be downloaded at no cost from the Council of State Governments Justice Center website.

Meetings of the council are open to the public. Visit the website to register for the next meeting, learn more about the council, and read minutes from past meetings.